- Are you satisfied with the progress your organization is making relative to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? Many companies continue to struggle with the same issues year after year, resulting in nominal progress toward their diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals. While there is no magic formula for diversity and inclusion, these four strategies will help raise accountability for meaningful action.
Move Beyond The Business Case Discussion
The business case for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace has already been established and is supported by a growing body of evidence. Qualitative data such as employee engagement surveys and quantitative data focused on improved performance is readily accessible in the public domain and have been widely communicated.
One example in Diversity Best Practices’ Diversity Primer demonstrates how Sodexo Corporation exponentially increased its return on investment through D&I initiatives. ”For every $1 it has invested in mentoring, it has seen a return of $19, according to Dr. Rohini Anand, the company’s senior vice president and global chief diversity officer.”
So why are some organizations and business leaders still stuck on the fundamental understanding that creating an inclusive and diverse workforce is good for business? We need to respectfully challenge and move beyond lip service in two key areas.
1. The business case for diversity must assume the same level of importance as bottom-line results and market-share performance.
2. We must ask for and challenge the business case for maintaining a heterogeneous workforce.
Identify And Address Systemic Barriers
Leaders in a non-inclusive culture default to putting all impetus for change on the individual versus owning the impact of systemic processes and exclusionary behavioral patterns.
Unfortunately, all of the individuals who decide to work for your organization won’t fit into the group your policies and unspoken norms were originally designed for. It’s your responsibility to reimagine and redesign your organization to create an environment where all of your employees can thrive. We must go beyond simple “inclusion” work and venture into the work that reforms and disrupts. Conduct an enterprise-wide audit for bias and discrimination.
To do this, start by asking some tough questions:
• How might our policies be complicit in systems of oppression?
• Whom do our policies benefit most and why?
• What can I reimagine about my business to create a more versatile experience that fits the needs of all my employees?
• How might our professional expectations be predatory and discriminatory toward certain groups of people?
• How can we create opportunities for historically marginalized groups to thrive?
• How can we affirm people’s true identities—beyond their utility at work?
• What do people need from us that goes beyond a paycheck—and can we provide it?
If your organization is unaware of the impact and reach of systemic oppression, it is undoubtedly participating in the perpetuation of that oppression. This is where our discussions must begin from now on if we are serious about advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
Close The Gap Between Intent And Impact For Finding Diverse Talent
There is no shortage of diverse talent. Period. There is, however, a lack of intentionality in sourcing, hiring and developing diverse talent.
Hiring professionals at large organizations often feel that they have done their job when they have brought in “diverse” talent, but there is a big difference between acquiring greater diversity and achieving true inclusion. Hiring to create diversity alone — checking off boxes on a corporate hiring profile by increasing the representation from a few target populations — is not a wise maneuver.
Here’s why: Unless you’re working toward real inclusiveness, you may find that within a year, an alarming number of those hires have left the organization. Their exit interviews may reveal additional clues about the limitations of diverse hiring strategies when there are not inclusive practices in place to support the engagement and success of all employees.
When employees cannot contribute in a manner they find fulfilling, they must set out in search of companies where they feel truly welcomed, valued and rewarded, where their unique perspectives are exactly what the business is looking for and their insights are put to good use. By the same token, companies that hire just to fill a quota waste time, effort and, of course, funds preparing people for roles they won’t fill long-term and searching for new talent when those individuals inevitably leave.
The good news is there are a number of practical resources to help source diverse talent, such as Diversity Best Practices’ list of diverse talent organizations and the National Institute of Health’s list of myths behind finding diverse talent.
Don’t Settle For Activity Without Progress
A newly released report from Working Mother Research Institute, “The Gender Gap at the Top: What’s Keeping Women From Leading Corporate America?” seeks to understand why, despite years of focus on the advancement of women, progress is so slow. A big part of the answer, according to the report, is in the startling gender disparity in access to the feeder positions to the C-suite, especially those with profit and loss responsibilities. The research also reveals four main gaps that are not being addressed adequately:
• Awareness/knowledge by women of what’s needed to move up and what opportunities exist
• Ability to build relationship capital
• Confidence in oneself and willingness to take risks
• Corporate cultures that “walk the talk” of accountability in creating opportunities for women
Organizations are going to have to shift from an activity focus to being held accountable for progress. This shift includes setting meaningful benchmarks and goals.
There has been some encouraging news recently, such as the last all-male board in the S&P 500 adding a woman, and the widely celebrated biotech industry milestone made by Vertex’s appointment of Reshma Kewalramani as their new CEO, succeeding Jeffrey Leiden. That said, the rate of progress remains erratic and slow. According to McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace 2018″ report, “Women remain underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind white men, men of color, and white women.”
Time has proven the fact that it is not enough to simply have women’s employee resource groups, talent programs, associations, and events. It’s time to critically assess the impact and progress associated with gender diversity efforts — and adjust as needed.
Said differently, it’s time to move beyond lip service.